Thursday, May 31, 2012

To Fix: Cornflower Blue Dress

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This dress is extremely cute in theory.  It's by a brand called Ryu, and I bought it at a thrift shop about a year ago with the idea that I would modify it, because I don't know what in bowtied hell is going on with the neck.  It's a cute idea, but it doesn't quite work.  It even sort of looks good at certain angles, in certain lights.  The color is amazing - a very excellent cornflower blue - but add up the weird neck-bow, and the vast wasteland of chestage, and the fact that the halter shows my bra straps and cuts my shoulders to make me look like a linebacker, and you get a hot mess.

My general rule for clothes I buy at full price is that said garment has to be around 90% perfect.  It's okay if there are a few little things that I would change about it, but if there's a major fitting issue, proportion issue, or technical flaw, it's into the no pile.  Obviously, I relax this rule a lot when I go thrifting.  I often buy the stuff that has a really great detail - like the amazing full skirt and bubble cutout hem on this dress - but is otherwise deservedly hanging in a thrift store and not somebody's closet.

It's like the dress didn't know what it wanted to be when it grew up, so the waistband turned into a bodice and got finished off with an awkward bow.  The tucks that make up the fullness of the skirt start right above the natural waist, which has an unfortunate "pregnant prairie maiden" effect if unbelted.  I can definitely see this kind of dress looking adorable as-is on someone petite, but dammit, I want a bubble-hemmed skirt all to myself.

So my plan is to cut it off around the base of the armholes to make a tea-length, cornflower blue, full skirt.  I haven't figured out yet how I'll make a waistband, or even if this is a very good idea at all, but I'm having a little bit of closet-induced insanity that makes me want to play with my clothes instead of wearing them.

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

WIP: Summer Flies


Last Friday I bound off Ptarmigan and immediately felt a hankering for another quick lace project, so I wound a skein of merino/cashmere/nylon blend fingering weight and cast on for a Summer Flies.  I had seen probably a dozen beautiful versions from my Eastside knit group starting over a year ago, and finally a few months ago I caved in and bought yarn for it.  I knew that I wanted it to be frilly and sweet, so I went with pink, a colorway called Cactus Blossom in Sun Valley Fibers MCN Fingering.


As you can tell, I got hooked.  This is a very simple and fast little pattern with a great result - my one complaint is that it's not offered as a chart in addition to the written instructions.  Line-by-line instructions are intuitive to some people, but I end up getting frustrated with them because I don't have a sense of the overall look, a problem which is nicely remedied by charts.  (I thought I just sucked at lace knitting when I first started, because written instructions confused the hell out of me.)  The stitch patterns were simple enough that it wasn't too bad though, and I really love the finished shawl.

I have a whole lot of WIPs going right now, because I still can't use my blocking boards, so I keep on finishing things, sticking them in a basket until they can be blocked, and starting new things.  I'm hoping to fix that soon, and then I'll have a huge backlog of finished things to share! 

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Building a Fashion Library


Hope everyone in the States had a good Memorial Day weekend!  I didn't do much out of the ordinary - class on Saturday, more packing up and cleaning at the old apartment on Sunday, and a silly movie with my parents Sunday night.  Monday, Lumberjack and I hung out and did absolutely nothing responsible.  We woke up late, got hamburgers for lunch, and dinked around Ballard.  It was glorious.

We had been to Secret Garden Books on Market Street just once, about ten minutes before closing, and we hurried in and out so we wouldn't bother them.  When we checked them out on Monday, they had a small but excellent selection of fashion books.  Between the bookstore and the neat little art & frame shop next door that also sells cards and books on art and design, I got four great new additions to my growing fashion library.


So I'm a sucker for lists, and for things that are organized in interesting or unique ways.  Although all of these books cover similar subject matter, they approach it very differently.  

1.  Fashion Design Directory by Marnie Fogg.  This book lists designers and influential brands alphabetically, giving each a short description and chronological summary of their style evolution.  A really great reference.

2.  100 Years of Fashion by Cally Blackman.  This book is gorgeous.  It has two sections, 1900-1959 and 1960-present, and there are subsections within each of those sections that describe a particular genre or aesthetic, from Hollywood to sportswear to fashion subcultures.  It gives a broad overview of the 20th century in fashion, while still retaining focus in each subsection.  I read this entire book yesterday, because it is that enthralling.  (And before your eyes bug out, about 90% of the book's content is in photographs and captions.)

3.  100 Ideas That Changed Fashion by Harriet Worsley.  This book marks important fashion concepts and tracks their evolution from beginnings to current day.  I love reading about the history of how and when certain fashions began, and I think it's super interesting that so many of them had controversial beginnings, but are now completely accepted as wardrobe staples.

4.  Pantone: The 20th Century in Color by Leatrice Eiserman and Keith Recker.  This book lists a chronology of cultural influences - films, art, movements, and music, to name a few - and the color palettes that they inspired.  A great jumping-off point for thinking about color.

Friday, May 25, 2012

Outfit Post: Monochrome Roses

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So I'm still trying to figure out my back porch.  It's a little harder to take full outfit photos, because it's a small porch 2 stories in the air.  Asking Lumberjack to back up a little more isn't quite an option.

Yesterday was a little cooler than it's been lately, so I opted to wear tights with this silly little rose-print dress.  I picked it up at a Goodwill over a year ago for about five bucks, and I've worn it a surprising number of times.  It is pretty short though, so I almost always wear it with tights.  Also, is it cool that I wear this belt almost constantly?  Because I have yet to find an outfit that it doesn't work with.  Shenanigans!


And amazingly, the weather cleared up in the afternoon and I got to have lunch with a new friend and her roommate in their front yard.  The sun was out and there were flowers in the salad.  Then I went home and shortly after we got a microwave delivered that fits our itty-bitty kitchen.  All in all, a good day.

Grey and black rose print dress: Thrifted
Black beaded cardigan: Thrifted
Red bow belt: Nordstrom's
Earrings: Tasi
Purple tights: Hue
Shoes: Fluevog Fellowship Kathy

Thursday, May 24, 2012

Rat Break


Things are still pretty hectic around here - but not too hectic to grab a couple of minutes of rat time!  He was acting so silly yesterday that I grabbed the camera and snapped a few shots.


Our new couch has the Small Furry Person stamp of approval.  He likes running along the back of the couch, and jumping from the couch to the bookshelf, and trying to jump back to his cage... basically, he just likes everything about being out.  He barely sits still.


Which reminds me that I really need to get a macro lens for my DSLR.  Mac actually likes the camera now, and sticks his nose in the lens at every opportunity.  Unfortunately it can't autofocus fast enough at that short of a distance, so I end up with blurry rat-nose shots.  Sharp rat-nose shots would be much cuter, I'm sure!

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

WIP: Ptarmigan


That's better.

After my disastrous attempt at Ptarmigan last week, I ripped it out and started over yesterday.  And while it doesn't look that much different, knitting it is much nicer, and a project that was initially kind of miserable turned out to be exactly as pleasant as I'd hoped.  Really, all of this could have been avoided by doing a gauge swatch... but this yarn is so precious that I didn't want to waste any of it.  See, that's a perfectly legitimate excuse not to swatch!  I stand by my laziness, even if it took a lot of grumbling to fix it.


And now the fabric is pretty much perfect.  The purl bumps are tiny and lovely - like beads on a string - and the lace is dainty and subtly open.  It's exactly what I'd envisioned.  Sometimes it just takes a week (or more) of settling into the idea of ripping my work out and trying again.  I'm just happy that it worked out the second time, because usually by the third attempt I'm ready to shove the yarn into the bottom of my stash and forget it ever existed.  Yay for small victories!

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

WIP: Unfucking Our Apartment

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There hasn't been much knitting around here as of late, and the main reason is the apartment.  Our old place was probably half again as big as the new apartment, so it's been challenging to fit all of our stuff into a much smaller space.  In some ways, it's fun, like a puzzle!  And in other ways, it's just epically frustrating.

Luckily, I recently stumbled upon a Tumblr called Unfuck Your Habitat, and it's sort of revolutionary.  I have definite perfectionist leanings, and I hadn't really ever thought of that as being a deterrent to cleaning.  But if the options are a) do it perfectly, or b) don't do it at all, that doesn't leave any room for little bits of progress.  This explains a lot about my cleaning habits - I go on big CLEAN ALL THE THINGS spurts every few weeks to a month, depending on how antsy I'm feeling.

So I've been trying to do cleaning in shorter increments with lots of breaks, and to appreciate the little things that do get done.  So even though the kitchen is a relative disaster, my coffee pot is sparkling clean - dude, apparently hot water and vinegar and a good scrubbing is magic.


One of my biggest priorities has been to have a nice living room, and I finally finished tackling the coffee table/couch area today.  I like that the little IKEA bookshelf has both Legos and yarn on it - it definitely reflects both Lumberjack's and my personalities!

There's still a long ways to go, but I'm trying to get a little done every day, and hopefully we'll actually be moved in and comfortable in the next month or so.  The day that happens can't come soon enough.

Monday, May 21, 2012

Seattle Yarn Tour Haul

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This last weekend was the Puget Sound Local Yarn Store Tour.  I hadn't been expecting to participate, but I did end up going to about six shops - less than a third of the shops participating! - but a pretty epic number nonetheless.  I went to a few on my own, and hit three on Sunday with Lumberjack's mom.

And what of the yarn?  From the top, there's Abstract Fiber Alto in Turquoise, Tosh Merino DK in Sugar Plum, Malabrigo Finito in Plomo, and Prism Delicato in Plum Crazy.  As usual, I've mostly adhered to my normal color palate.  I did expand my usual tastes in weight, however; only half of them are fingering or laceweight!  Usually I pass over heavier weights, but lately I've been trying to build that part of my stash, which is pretty small.


I also tried to use the opportunity of seeing all these different shops to get a few yarns that I had been curious about.  I saw Finito in Knit Purl's newsletter and wanted to find out if it really was as soft as cashmere.  And after squishing this yarn extensively, I can say that yes, it is.


I was also really excited to find Delicato, a laceweight Tencel yarn that I saw for the first time about a year ago.  I was enamored of the incredible softness and heft of this yarn.  It was a last-minute discovery in the last shop of the day on Sunday, and as soon as I saw this deep iris color I was in love.  Usually I prefer animal fibers over plant-based ones, so I'm always pleasantly surprised when I find a plant-based yarn that I love.  I'm curious to see how it knits up!

I think after this it's time to revert to stashbusting/yarn dieting mode - the last few weeks have been a bit of a splurge!  Time to buckle down and shop the stash.

Thursday, May 17, 2012

On Humility

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Every so often I get a blinding flash of inspiration to use a particular yarn and pattern together and it works beautifully, exactly like I thought it would in my head.  I knit it in a matter of days, and it's so fun to work on that I can't put it down.  And then the finished product is gorgeous and I am extremely pleased with myself.

This... is not one of those times.  Yet.

The other day, I bought a copy of Ptarmigan, a Jared Flood pattern that I've liked ever since it came out.  I loved the idea of using just a little bit of a luxury yarn to make a next-to-skin garment like a cowl, because I believe that the proper place for cashmere, silk, yak, and other amazing fibers is squished into my face.


I usually change needles with Jared Flood patterns, because I've found that my gauge is consistently off by one needle size.  For Wayfarer, I went up from an 8 to a 9 and got a lovely fabric and the right gauge, so I figured I'd be safe if I sized up for Ptarmigan, too.

Unfortunately, Jared's yarn is a sport-almost-DK weight, and mine is a Ravelry-says-it's-sport-but-I-think-they're-wrong-and-it's-fingering weight.  So, while a DK weight on a size 8 is lovely and would probably make the right fabric, a deceitfully small sport weight is cumbersome to knit and way too airy.  It actually looks pretty good in pictures and in general, but it's a nightmare to knit.

And seeing as this is a skein of coveted Swiss mountain silk/cashmere blend dyed by enchanted gnomes in Canada (actually the human dyers at Handmaiden, but I still suspect there's magic afoot), I really don't want this project to suck.  Which right now, it does.  For some reason it hurts my hands to work on, when it should be exceedingly luxurious and amazing.  So I think I'm going to have to take a deep breath and rip it out, have a minute of poutiness and then try again.  Oh knitting, at least you keep me humble.

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Stash Love: Tosh Merino Light Nectar

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What's that you say?  More Tosh Merino Light?  Why yes, don't mind if I do!

I went to visit my new local yarn shop on Monday and took this skein home with me.  I can't seem to get enough of Tosh pinks and purples, especially when they are as sweetly vintage and lovely as this one, a colorway called Nectar.

On a related note, every so often I get a little reminder of why I love the yarn community so much.  Monday I walked down to my new yarn shop, The Tea Cozy in Ballard, and sat and chatted and knit with the owner for over an hour.  I walked home with this Tosh and a smile.

To explain:

Most of the time I feel like a very socially awkward little penguin.  I love people, but I often have no idea how to start a conversation, much less a friendship, and that can be frustrating.  But for some reason, I don't have that problem with knitters.  I could go knit with a totally new group and start talking about my favorite color of Malabrigo sock yarn, and someone would tell me about a cool pattern that only takes one skein of it, and by the end of the night we'd all be making plans for the next week.  It's awesome.  So I was feeling like a social failboat, and then I went to the yarn store and had a great conversation and then my day was great, too.

The yarn's not half bad either.

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Long-Lost WIP: Leaf and Nupp Shawl


Okay, so I totally started this shawl uhhh... a year ago.  I think I may have cast on for it on the bus on the way to work last summer.  I worked on it pretty hard for about a week, then dropped it for newer, shinier projects.  (Which is, admittedly, my knitterly M.O.)  But it's interesting, because given that it's a) Estonian lace and b) Madelinetosh, I would think that it would be a speedy and winning combination.  It's also what is perhaps my favorite green ever: ginger and olive and apple green all rolled into one glorious colorway called Filigree.  I have seen other skeins of Filigree, and none are quite the same as mine.


Anyhow, I picked this up after casting off Wayfarer - which I still need to block - because I needed something to work on during the move that I wouldn't need to think too much about.  Kinda silly, because I vaguely remember that I put this shawl down because it was too hard.  In fact, I wrote a poem about it here.  In short, this shawl kicked my ass.  I don't know why I thought it would be a good idea to use it as a brainless project.

And yet.  I've been working on it, and working on it a lot.  And liking it.  I guess it just needed a year or so to come around.

Although it still keeps on muttering something about a waffle iron...

Monday, May 14, 2012

Outfit Post: Seasilk Pirate (with Rat Companion)

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First outfit post on my new porch!  Hooray!  It has a few light issues, but the brown stucco isn't a bad neutral.  And the new apartment has a lot more light than the old one in general - very good for working in my studio and very pleasant to hang out in.  We finally got most everything moved last Wednesday, and the days since then have been spent unpacking and putting together furniture.  I gave myself a gigantic bruise on my wrist putting together my big IKEA yarn-shelf and we have about two bowls in our cabinets, but it's finally feeling like ours.

Saturday was the first day that I was really able to dig into my closet and wear something fun.  I've been finding this little striped dress surprisingly versatile for being so unusual - I already wore it like this a while back, and I find it fun to layer with both simple cardigans and flats or crazier tops and funky shoes.  Plus, it's super comfy, which is a huge bonus.


You probably noticed that I have a little helper!  Mackie has been settling in very nicely, both as a pet and in the new place.  He's a lot sweeter and more trusting than he was when we first adopted him.  He's also amassed a large number of nicknames, as always happens with pets in my family.  He goes by Mac, Mackie, Macaboo, Boodle, Lovey, Cracker Mac... the list goes on.  Poor guy.

Striped tank dress: Lee Andersen
Coral cutout flats: Fluevog Danielles
Black leather bow belt: Nordstrom's
Earrings: Randoms from a department store in Tokyo about 8 years ago
Shawl: Flower Basket Shawl by Evelyn Clark, knit in Handmaiden Seasilk

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

WIP: Moving

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It's coming along.  Slowly but surely.  Yesterday I got my studio packed up the rest of the way, a truly gargantuan task.  The only things left on the desk are a notebook for class tomorrow and my precious Baby Lock serger.  (Fun fact: my mom and I started singing "Baby Lock, oh Baby Looock," on our way out of the sewing and vacuum shop with my precious in tow.)

It's pretty astounding how much stuff you can accumulate in a year.  And now it's not just yarn stuff, it's also paper patterns from draping and grading classes, random pins, hook & eyes, lengths of horsehair braid and ribbon.  Luckily I haven't yet become a fabric hoarder, although I'm sure it's bound to happen given my chosen career path.

I started the process going through everything and really thinking about everything that I packed up, but towards the end it was almost entirely picking something up, having a blinding fit of not giving a shit, and shoving it in a box with the other random crap.  In the end, my impatience with mind-numbing amounts of cleaning beats the crap out of my sense of perfectionism.

That's healthy, right?

Friday, May 4, 2012

WIP: Hedera Socks

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I've been doing some Deep Stash Cleaning in preparation for the move, and in the process getting some ideas about what to knit next.  Nothing better than burying yourself in yarn to get excited about knitting!  This skein of Ella Rae Lace Merino was supposed to be for a design project.  Somewhere along the way I decided that it would be much nicer as another pair of Hederas, mostly because my pink Hederas are the prettiest socks I own.  I may be biased because they're pink, though.


I think I still like the pink better, but they have had the benefit of blocking and wearing, which the blue one has not.  I've been knitting on this sock in class, and even though I haven't knit socks hardcore for three or four years, I could still turn a heel in my sleep.  Yeah!

Thursday, May 3, 2012

Stash: Black Trillium Star

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I can't explain what drew me to this skein of Black Trillium Merilon Sock.  Maybe it was the thought of the beautiful little Estonian scarf I saw in a Madelinetosh variegated colorway of green, pink, and yellow on Ravelry.  Or maybe it just seemed like it captured my mood so well - a little muddled, mostly hopeful.  A colorway called Star.

Moving is hard.  Lumberjack and I have talked at length about what it means to leave our apartment.  When we first moved here, we talked about staying for years: the apartment is clean, cool in the summer, a pool only a hundred feet away from our front door.  The conclusion we keep on settling on is that it's the right time to move, and the right place to move to.  But I think that after five years of moving two or three times a year (and sometimes across or between countries), I moved in here and put down roots.

I like the little ground squirrels that chatter at me in the morning when I'm defrosting my car and the brown rabbits that come out when the weather gets warm.  I like my back patio.  I wasn't expecting to move away so soon.

So the other day we went to get keys to the new apartment and the maintenance man was late and my brain started running around like a spooked rabbit like what if this isn't the right place?  And I had to go home and take a very, very long nap.  (Let me note that this is also because my face went on strike earlier this week from of all the pollen in the air.  This was not mere laziness but Epic Brainfail.)

And then yesterday morning I took a box of clothes over to the new apartment.  They swept the floors and cleaned up the spilled paint since I was last there.  The sun lit up the whole place and a breeze came in through an open window.  I hung up my blouses.  I started to feel better.

I think this move is a metaphor for my whole freaking life right now.  Maybe the yarn is too.